Troy Mayor Ethan Baker addresses city staff, residents and business owners in front of the Troy Police Department at the first State of the City address in Troy since 2015.

Troy Mayor Ethan Baker addresses city staff, residents and business owners in front of the Troy Police Department at the first State of the City address in Troy since 2015.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Troy mayor hosts first State of the City address since 2015

Future plans include ‘more peaceful process’ between developers, residents

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published May 26, 2021

 Troy Mayor Ethan Baker speaks about the strength of the city during the 2021 State of the City address.

Troy Mayor Ethan Baker speaks about the strength of the city during the 2021 State of the City address.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

TROY — Although a global pandemic has wreaked havoc on many aspects of our lives this past year and many uncertainties still loom, Troy Mayor Ethan Baker took to the podium May 19 in front of the Troy Police Department for Troy’s first State of the City address since 2015.

“Because we continue to work together, and because of the relationships we’ve built and continue to strengthen, I can say without a doubt that the state of our city is strong,” Baker said.

Baker said he wanted to bring the State of the City address back after he was elected to increase transparency, “something I have fought for over the past several years, and something that our citizens and (City) Council truly demand,” he said.

 

‘Relationships matter’
Relationships and collaborations across the community between city staff, Troy School District administrators, business owners, residents and others are key, Baker said.

“We are strong because we have built strong relationships,” he said. “The recipe is easy. The best way to stay strong is to continue to build relationships with each other, strengthen those relationships, and work together toward the greater good of our city.”

There’s no better example of public-private collaboration over the past pandemic year, Troy Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tara Tomcsik-Husak said May 19, than the partnership the city formed with the chamber and its business partners.

“They truly care about the wellbeing of residents and understand the importance of supporting local business. The city of Troy even won the Troy Chamber Business Excellence Award for customer service, by a public vote,” she said. “I’m pretty positive there’s never been a government office to ever win a customer service award, so I do say that speaks absolute volumes to the community we’re in.”

The city’s high-achieving public services were exemplified by the Troy Police Department’s work walking alongside Black Lives Matter protesters during two peaceful protests in summer 2020, after the death of George Floyd, as well as their more recent efforts to increase autism awareness by attending additional training and adding calming bags to patrol cars, and their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic through a partnership with Families Against Narcotics, Baker said.

The Troy Trails network, something residents long sought after and which is in phase three of development at Jaycee Park, provides another example of strong collaborations the city has worked to maintain with residents.

However, not all relationships in the city are as positive, Baker acknowledged.

“We know development in Troy must continue, and we hear time and time again the importance of smart development, and compatibility with our neighborhoods,” he said. “The past few years have unfortunately seen developers pitted against neighbors, because of the zoning, and the city’s master plan, and a disagreement between those.

“This year, we’re working to update our master plan, to modify those neighborhood nodes where we can, to allow for a more peaceful process for both the residential neighbors and developers. The truth is we need both residents and developers in our community.”

A stronger relationship with Oakland County is one Baker said he’s committed to fostering further this year as well.

“I can’t overstate the importance of relationship building and working together, not just in our city, but in our county and our entire region,” he said, noting how helpful the county’s Restaurant Relief Program was to Troy businesses. “As such, I commit myself to further strengthening my relationship with County Executive (David) Coulter and Oakland County as a whole knowing the city of Troy and its residents and businesses will all be better and stronger because of that relationship, but we’re not without strong relationships already.”

The city needs to continue to work with residents to grow and augment the city’s parks and recreation amenities, a high priority for some residents, Baker said.

 

Funding future improvements
The city is looking forward to other improvements, as well, Baker said.

“We recently completed a community survey, and this budget mimics the priorities of our residents as set forth in the survey results, which were confirmed as priorities also by our City Council members,” he said about the recently approved 2021-2022 fiscal year budget.

The city’s fiscal year budget is $178 million overall, with $63 million in the general fund for resident and business services, special revenues, road maintenance, waste management and recycling activity, and library operations. The city’s capital projects fund totals $24.5 million.

“Key capital investments mattering most to us in this budget are $11.8 million for local street projects; $2.9 million for the community center roof replacement; $1.4 million for other city buildings; $1.9 million for park development, including trails and pathways; $1.4 million for library collection replacement and building renovation; $2.3 million for public safety, including $1.3 million for fire apparatus and $1 million for police equipment,” Baker said.

Baker noted that the city’s business community is strong, and he believes it will get stronger as the Downtown Development Authority looks to expand its investments throughout the downtown corridor.

“Because of a longstanding contractual agreement with Somerset Collection, we received a large lump sum payment totaling over $4 million,” Baker said. “That payment was smartly used to pay down DDA bonds and refinance that debt, and as a result, our DDA is in a position to reinvest in its district, providing a much-needed refresh and reboot to our golden corridor.”

With fewer than 100 businesses in Troy roughly 60 years ago to more than 1,000 now calling the city home, Tomcsik-Husak said collaboration has been and will continue to be key to success.

Baker said the financially responsible, fiscally conservative approach to the city’s budget and spending will help to reinforce the city’s strengths. “Troy’s financial position is strong, but we always must continue to be wise stewards,” he said.

 

‘Troy always comes out stronger’
As the city continues to align its goals and investment in upcoming projects with the highest priorities expressed by residents and businesses in the community, Baker said some of the city’s next steps will pave the way for the city to come out stronger than it was before.

The Troy Police Department will begin the process of integrating body cameras this fiscal year, Baker said. “We’re fortunate to be able to invest substantially in the top-of-the-line body cams, and technology, maximizing our safety and the accountability,” he said. The Troy Fire Department will receive a new fire truck and other new emergency equipment.

Funding from a recently passed, voter-approved library millage renewal will help the library bring back seven-day services and make improvements to the physical infrastructure. Baker also hinted at the possible reopening of the library to in-person patrons soon.

“While I’m not breaking any news here officially this evening, I understand we’re getting ready to finally reopen the doors to our library to our residents,” Baker said as he received a thumbs up from Troy Library Director Emily Dumas in the crowd.

A focus on parks and trails will be seen as the city moves into a new budget cycle, Baker said, announcing the groundbreaking at a new community park, the City Center Project, in June, which will be located in the Troy Community Center’s former north parking lot.

“We must always ensure those spaces are protected and properly funded. This budget is a step in that direction,” Baker said.

While the state of Troy may have looked bleak to some not too long ago, Baker said fostering strong community relationships is what has helped the city.

“Through every trying time, Troy always comes out stronger and better, and this time will be no different,” Baker said. “While it can be easy to talk about the past, it is time to move forward, always aware of our history, but supremely focused on good government and the future, what the residents and businesses of Troy truly desire. Part of moving forward like that is focusing on the amazing community relationships we do have.”

A recorded livestream of the State of the City address can be viewed by visiting troymi.gov.